An applicant failed his pre-employment drug test and wasn’t hired. Years later, following successful drug treatment, he applied again, only to be told he wouldn’t be hired because of a one-strike rule.
The applicant went to court, claiming the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by discriminating against him on the basis of his protected status as a rehabilitated drug addict.
But the court disagreed.
It noted that the rule eliminates all candidates who test positive for drug use. That even includes someone who tried drugs for the first time on the day before the drug test.
On the other hand, the rule allows a drug-addicted applicant who happens to be clean at the time of the drug test to pass.
The court also noted that, had this applicant applied for the first time after he had completed drug treatment, he would have qualified for employment.
Here’s the tie-in for safety pros: Before the adoption of its one-strike rule, this company, a longshoring operation, suffered numerous fatalities and serious injuries. The company attributed those incidents in part to a culture that accepted the use of drugs and alcohol. The company thought it could reduce deaths and serious injuries by eliminating applicants who might be more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol.
In its decision, the court opined that this one-strike rule does impose a harsh penalty on applicants who test positive for drug use. Ultimately, said the court, unreasonable rules don’t necessarily violate the ADA.
(Lopez v. Pacific Maritime Assoc., U.S. Dist. Crt. Central Dist. CA, No. 09-55698, 3/2/2011)
You can download a PDF of the court’s decision here.